An Impossible Prayer

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I feel like we spend much of our lives waiting for the spring. We keep hoping and praying for that miracle, for stubborn problems in our lives to resolve, for relationships to change, and for our losses to be restored. But we still see bare branches against a cold sky. 

Then it happens, almost imperceptible at first. The grey twig forms a small bud. Hope flickers cautiously, as we contemplate this tiny resurrection, hovering between wonder and doubt. But then there is no doubt, as life explodes triumphantly from its cocoon. 

Our winter times teach us in paradox; that despair is the illusion, and even the most barren looking branches may blossom again.  

We can not really know what resurrection life awaits unseen.

My husband and I have walked a long journey that is familiar to many others, of pregnancy loss and twelve years of infertility. We have experienced God’s redemption in our family through adoption, as He graced us with three gifts; each with their own hard but beautiful story. They are a sign that He hears, that He feels the pain of our loss, and that His plan is always working despite our circumstances and feelings. He is the only one who can take broken things and make them into a beautiful new whole. I felt at peace with fact that I was in my early 40’s and would never experience a full pregnancy, childbirth or have a biological child. But the ache was still there, and I accepted that it always would be. There are some griefs that will never be fully healed in this life. There were small sparks that kept that tiny flame of hope flickering. Random comments about people that adopted several children and then got pregnant. Miraculous pregnancy stories in scripture that moved me in surprising ways. A few friends with miracle pregnancies after a decade of waiting. But nothing that would make me risk real hope again. 

Our journey to China and our time there was a faith building one. Many times I saw God do things I had considered impossible. I learned how to take the risk of an impossible prayer, hold onto it tenaciously and wait. That helped my faith to grow. And suddenly, I felt God giving back to me a prayer I had stopped praying years ago. I felt like He wanted me to ask Him again to help me get pregnant. Despite my age, my medical history, and our graveyard of losses, I asked again, and after the past two years I did believe He could, but I didn’t have much hope. 

A week before my 42nd birthday, and 1 month before we left China, I discovered I was pregnant. I still struggled with old fears and anxieties, but this time was different. I felt like God was giving me the courage to hope again. He was doing a new thing for His glory, and He had resurrected a prayer I had stopped praying. I went in for my first ultrasound, at our busy local hospital. I had never had a normal OB ultrasound, as they had always been ectopic pregnancies. I knew that if this one was bad, I would face both the language barrier and impersonal bedside manner that is standard there. I felt that it would be unbearable. But the day before my test I had a prayer time with my teammate, and the image of Peter walking on the water to Jesus came before me. He was able to do the impossible, because he was doing what Christ had called him to do. It felt just as impossible that my ultrasound would be normal after so many failures, but I resolved to believe that it would. And miraculously, it showed an intrauterine pregnancy with a heartbeat. We have had many ultrasounds since, including our 20 week diagnostic, and praise God, they have all been normal. I am 24 weeks pregnant with a little boy, and feel that I am living inside of a miracle every day. While pregnancy is not easy (especially at 42!), I am thankful that I can experience all of it, from the months of nausea and fatigue to the wonder of a baby kicking inside of me. 

I am sharing so much of our story, because I hope it will encourage others who are in a winter season of their lives. We also faced years of hopelessness and despair, when our prayers seemed to bounce off the ceiling and it felt like nothing would ever change. When we are in those painful times we can’t imagine that God is still working. But He is. Our circumstances may distort our view of Him, but He remains the one who suffers with us, the one who always has a redemption plan, and the one who continues to work on our impossible prayers, even when we have given up on them. 

 

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A Mother’s Day Confession

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I am nestled in a cozy sunny window of a busy Starbucks, my bloodstream now replete with sugar, fat and caffeine. I have 3 hours to myself, to surf Facebook or stare out the window or journal or just think. The air is thick with coffee powder, and outside the sky is an interesting shade of cloudy grey. Serenity. We spend most our lives working toward goals and self evaluating. Today I feel writing should be less like running a race, and more like an aimless ramble that may get us lost, but also take us somewhere interesting. If we really love something we will do it without the reward of accomplishment at the end. It’s sad to think about how many things we do for the purpose of pleasing or impressing someone else, or to prop up the self image we are projecting. I feel like this applies to motherhood as well.

Motherhood was hard to come by for me. This journey was potholed with tragedy, but reminds one that the harder journeys sometimes yield a sweeter arriving. I remember  skipping church on Mother’s Day, unable in my bitterness of soul to hear other mothers congratulated for something I desperately wanted. But today I dressed my boys in button down shirts and put my baby in her Easter dress.  I felt just like all the others- so strange how time really does heal some wounds. I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t been chosen. I shudder to think of that road to motherhood stretching to the present. Some people wait 10, 15 years. I’m glad I didn’t have to.

The journey to and experience  of motherhood is often polluted by wrong motives, expectations and assumptions. I wanted to love a child, but I also wanted to keep up with my peers. I felt ashamed because I couldn’t achieve a pregnancy. I felt left out, left behind, inferior, even cursed. It was so hard for me to accept infertility as a part of my unique journey, to accept that my story would stand out. I wanted so much to conform to the expectations of others, and this desire blinded me to the new thing God was doing in my life.

People kindly say my kids are blessed to have me, but when I speak of them it is in the language of gift, rescue and mercy. I was rescued from the barren desert of childlessness. And this rescue has made the experience of motherhood a little different; more infused with wonder, a daily awe that they are really mine.This is the pure experience of motherhood, the moment when the gates are opened and the pain of blocked desire becomes a new love that bursts from your heart to inundate this little person. It is a transcendent experience; we become better than our normal selves, willing to make any sacrifice with joy, to give our lives. It is falling in love again. And every day that experience is open to me. To wonder. To enter their world. To give affection and praise and love.

But just like so many other aspects of my life, and my journey  to motherhood, I let the wrong reasons creep in.  I obey the urge to accomplish something I can check off, and chafe when they ask me to come play. I allow irritation  and impatience  to build up, clouding the way I see them and respond. I come under the expectations  of others, and worry why my wild boys don’t behave as well as my friends’ kids. I compare milestones and giftings, and start worrying about genetics and their futures.  I am tired, and this makes me fearful that my needs won’t be met, that I must fight for myself. My gifts become the adversary, the ones who steal my sleep and mess up my house and rob my peace. I feel that I must get them to mind, because I don’t want to be that mom who can’t control her kids. And because  loss of control is frightening. I feel superior when my child excels, and ashamed when he falls short. I have mostly avoided the mommy war issues, but these thoughts above slide effortlessly into my mind and poison motherhood.

Today on Mother’s day I want to do the right thing for the right reason. To remember that they are still an undeserved gift.To love and draw out the glory in my child at this moment, without using him or her to further my status or accomplish something or build up my self-esteem. To simply enjoy being with them is to love without ulterior motive. When they are not enjoyable I want to see this as an opportunity  to grow in love, not an attack on myself. Instead of wondering if they will become someone who brings me admiration, I want to leave a heritage of shared memories. I want them to remember me as someone who really saw and understood them.  Who invited God’s grace into our imperfections. Who simply loved them for who they really are.

The End of Summer

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the smell of curly hair frosted by the sprinkler

upturned faces, iridescent wonder

a child can hold a rainbow and make it rain

their toes find muddy yard delicious while i sigh

watermelon snow cone beards and ice cream mustaches

strawberries, swimming and swords

flowers made for plucking

sandy footprints by the door

these best rival-friends brothers

sons of ancestors so far away

did africa and china ever meet in history?

but now they share their golden tans

these strong wild boys

who do not shrink from sun like i

two monkeys shaking the photina branches

teasing each other higher

chasing and screaming down the hall

while baby sister naps

“the dragon’s coming!”

we hide in closet caves and munch provisions

i cut watermelon and break up fights

apply band aids

exhausted and sometimes cross

but always i am wanted

the one who make them safe

who makes it fun to run from dragons

i remember when we brought our eldest home

fifteen pounds and bald, i marveled

that such a small person could fulfill a lifetime’s dream

and redeem a graveyard of losses

but he did, this little person

bringing summer back

and filling each day with spinning exuberant joy

five years later he is changing

writing his letters and making his own friends

we held his fingers when he first learned to stand

and now he spins cartwheels

we clapped when he stacked his first blocks

and now he builds castles

coaxed him through asthma, eczema

the fears that spawn a thousand sleep starved nights

kindergarten means

that for the first time since he became ours

he will spend as much waking time with them as us

it is a cosmic not just sentimental shift

our planet has grown strong

will start to orbit other stars

and suddenly the half decade’s toil is forgotten

and i only wonder

is he ready? did i love him enough?

school starts in a week

and i’m the one who doesn’t want summer to end

yet it will

and the bleeding shows it’s real, and the heart beats on

bedtime while the sun teases through the blinds

“no mommy, it’s morning time”

my second son at three is still my planetoid

the affectionate one

large brown eyes, thick lashes i can’t take credit for

i only take grace

and settle my little bird in his nest

“mommy, is the dragon coming?”

“no baby, the dragon is far away. you’re safe”

eyes close and exhausted boys sleep

while i chase the dragons of a summer night

Noel

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You didn’t ripen inside me
But I was there to watch them pull you from another womb
Reluctantly
Like snowfall in March
The last goodbye to winter
And like spring’s first blossom
You curled up against my chest
and joined your rhythmic cooing to my breath
Accepting the graft
I bleerily gaze down at my hungry floret
Jeweled eyes wide open at three a.m.
Blue and grey
A snowstorm meets a bright spring day
Pink infusion, curtains, lace
Birthmark V- vivacious, and our victory is stamped
Like the tiara that entwines your pretty head
Your rosy efflorescence makes me smile- at last!
To have a daughter
Imagination vines with future plans
Princess, peapod, baby sister
Brothers plant wet kisses on your downy head
Now your bloom unfolds with bright eyes and giddy smiles
In two months we’ve become as real as your native home
Noel born in spring
The ice still settles
A last tempest shakes the branch
Our roots tremble
We steady the graft
And pray it to hold strong

50 signs that you have 3 children five and under

1. The ever present layer of petrified applesauce on the walls.

2. Your toilet paper is either stacked in messy coils or has a soggy bite taken out of it.

3. Something breaks every day.

4. Your formerly tenacious Bermuda grass has given up, and your backyard is now hard-packed dirt.

5. You have a 7 passenger vehicle that only seats 2 adults comfortably.

6. You buy 5 different types of disposable diapers.

7. Your garage is cluttered with 4 strollers, none of which fit everyone.

8. Naptime requires a vehicle, an iPhone, and a carefully timed bottle of milk.

9. Your Netflix movies are gathering dust.

10. Your bedtime ritual is so complicated you have to start right after dinner to have any hope.

11. You know who is most likely to awaken you at any hour of the night

12. You do a ton of laundry, but somehow it all fits nicely into a dresser and small closet.

13. Your house is wallpapered with preschool crafts.

14. Half finished pinterest projects

15. The words “I’m done” keep coming up in conversations with your husband.

16. You couldn’t give up caffeine for Lent

17. Your phone’s memory is full, but you can’t bring yourself to delete a picture.

18.Looking nice means adding earrings and mascara.

19. You think the American standard of personal hygiene is a luxury.

20. You have to ask if the cleaning lady came.

21. Your greatest fear when leaving on a trip is forgetting the blankies.

22. You don’t want to go on any more trips.

23. You have a timeout chair in every room.

24. You need a timeout chair more than they do.

25. If you can’t find your kids they’re probably hiding in the dryer.

26. Your once tidy coffee table is now buried under library books.

27. You would pay $100 for a nap.

28. You thank God every day you have a backyard.

29. You’re pretty sure your 2 year old could break the sound barrier with his scream.

30. You plan to visit your relatives for your anniversary so they can babysit while you escape for a few hours.

31. Your garage is full of half filled boxes of clothes in different sizes.

32. Friends don’t do coffee anymore, they do play dates.

33. You don’t have time for email or talking on the phone, but send runaway texts. Conversations with out of town friends must be carefully scheduled around naptime.

34. Your house smells like diapers.

35. You have glitter permanently affixed to your table. And you kind of like it.

36. If you agree to a pet, it will be a horseshoe crab or a fish.

37. You’re profoundly struck at random moments with the thought that these beautiful people are actually yours.

38. You can’t remember when you last changed the sheets. (Except in the case of the bedwetter)

39. You look forward to church for the hour of supervised childcare.

40. You realize you’re leaching off the system, and guiltily sign up for said childcare.

41. You can articulately debate both sides of the “Mommy Wars” issues.

42. You ignore your exhaustion and stay up, intoxicated by the sound of a quiet house and your own thoughts at last.

43. Your phone has half a dozen kids apps but no grown-up games.

44. You can’t find a pair of pants for your sons without holes in the knees.

45. You can justify the health benefits of biweekly baths.

46. No one ever stops you in a restaurant to tell you how welll-behaved your children are.

47. You have actually carried all of them at the same time before.

48. You have researched stock in applesauce.

49. You don’t have the energy to post about anything better than this.

50. You’re amazed at how happy you can be on so little sleep.

My 14 Best Things About 2014

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There are people who future gaze, who value mornings and fresh starts. I am more of a past reflecter. It is so much safer- I know I have made it to this point, despite all the dangers and things that could have gone wrong. I also like to savor all the hard work that is behind me. I see life more accurately in retrospect. So, in lieu of resolutions I give this instead. Not an all inclusive prioritized list of everything I value, but a way of highlighting the unique goodness of this past year.

1.Tenth anniversary trip to Seattle– A commemoration of our first decade. We watched our wedding video, amazed at how young we looked at 27. Remembered what we felt then and relived the memories since. We visited Pike Place market, Puget sound, the Space Needle, Snoqualmie Falls and the Oregon coast. We savored our uninterrupted thoughts and the simplicity of life without children. We didn’t dig too deep into our issues or work on marital problems. We just enjoyed it, and it was over too soon.

2. Seeing the joy of the ocean in my son’s eyes. Ocean city in July. The beach was crowded, but it could not encroach on the Atlantic’s grandeur. The Jade ran laughing through the waves and rolling in the sand. We spun and danced and splashed without reproof. Every child deserves a summer by the sea. I remember transcendent moments as a child, and they were always outside. A magical forest, a starry sky, that awe and mystery that makes the heart first turn towards God.

3. Meeting my friend’s baby, and finding a way to prioritize friendship during the toddler years. Friends are easy to make but hard to keep. Especially if you move around a lot. A lot of people don’t keep in touch, they keep their circle limited to those in town, those who are convenient. But I can’t let go of those jewels, those rare “kindred spirits” I’ve walked a chapter of life with. I want to reignite those fervent conversations, to feel understood by those who were there, who watched me being formed by life’s circumstances and who even remember what I was like before. We reflect on our adventurous naivete , ideals tempered by reality, and wonder if we have become cynical or wise. Phone conversations are hard with screaming toddlers in the background. A quick update- an hour max- and we both have to go. She had been one of my closest friends, and I hadn’t met her 2 year old yet. Strong friendships can feed off the past for a long time, but they get stale and need new memories to revive.  I flew to Indiana with one kid in tow. By day we enjoyed each other’s babies, and in the evening we talked for hours about the stuff that really matters. Unhealed wounds, uncertain calling, marriage issues- we had the conversations that remind you that humans are made in the image of God. We have eternal souls with transcendent longings that can be communicated to someone else. We can’t keep up with every friend, but we should sacrifice to hold onto some. This year some friendships  deepened, others drifted, and one or two new ones with potential began. It feels like such a coincidence of circumstances. I think many friendships formed in my youth developed because I had so much time to build them. They wouldn’t exist if I met them today, in the frenzied task oriented world of a preschool mom. But other friendships are intended for us, inevitable signs of grace that happen despite their unlikeliness.

4. We became financially healthy-paid off our loans and got serious about our retirement account. School loans are supposed to be the best kind of debt. But because of their amount (2 med schools) they loomed like a specter over our married life. When you apply for adoption you have to calculate your net worth, and ours has been negative for most of our marriage. Until now. We have finally crawled out of the big hole, and are starting to taste the rewards of 15 (combined) years of postgraduate work. It feels good. We will, however, continue to live as residents, partly to keep lifestyle expectations consistent with life overseas, and partly to do the saving we were supposed to do while we were busy amassing loans.

5. We decided to start a third adoption, amidst much controversy. As I wrote in the “China” post, Bob had finally come on board with the idea of going. We were mostly on the same page about moving overseas for the first time…ever. But as I thought about our family there, I realized that I really wanted another baby. The director of the agency we got Nick from said something that haunted me the day we picked him up; “If you come back and work with us again, I’ll find you a girl”. I wasn’t sure I could go overseas right now and face all the blunt questions about my infertility and family with this longing unsatisfied. I asked if we could start another adoption, and Bob agreed. I told myself that it would go quickly, that it wouldn’t delay things that much. But of course it has, and now our whole life is on hold. China is waiting on this, and all Bob’s other ambitions have been pushed even farther back.  I still feel right about both of them. I know that I am threatening my long held dream in pursuit of this little girl. But though I’ve never met her, I can’t walk away.

6.The Jade made progress, with or without therapy. His preschool semester was better than I feared. This summer was our wake-up call that our beloved child might have some unaddressed issues. With the first child, you don’t really know what normal is; he defines it. But his little brother developed to the level that he was able to sit still in a restaurant. He was calmer, less aggressive than his older sibling. The Jade had crossed over from the toddler years, where we could still place his behavior at the extreme end of normal. It was looking more and more like ADHD- and something else. We began the visits to the therapist, child psychologist. The former said sensory seeker, the latter borderline ADHD. Now I am in the middle of 6 months of play therapy, utilizing proprioception and cerebellar input, with a list of “calm down activities” before bed or if he gets too wild. We have done many laps around our house walking as a crab, bunny or bear. I ask him how his engine is running and have tried weighted blankets and sensory retreats. For his hitting behavior we’ve done short term rewards and a star on a chart that is now prominently displayed on our therapy bulletin board. We are supposed to be weaving his “sensory diet” into each aspect of our daily schedule. This is overwhelming, until you realize that almost anything can be a sensory activity. It has even helped me overcome a grumpy attitude about their messes. They’re wallowing in the backyard mud after a rainstorm? Deep pressure activity! Spinning and crashing into me? Cerebellar activation! Blowing through the straw until the milk bubbles onto the table? I read somewhere that pursed lip breathing is calming….Well, somewhere between the therapy and behavioral modifications and some old fashioned parenting advice, the Jade has started to improve. More in control. More on task. Fewer tantrums. He had a great fall semester in preschool, despite the concerns expressed in my previous post. We still pray and work, but we are hopeful that he will overcome.

7. I discovered I may not be in someone’s life for the reason I thought. There’s a girl I’ve been helping for awhile- I’ll call her Elaina. She’s in her 20s but never learned to drive, because she grew up in an abusive family, and fled before she had a chance to learn. We worked with the same ministry for awhile, and I clearly felt God leading me to teach her to drive. It was hard to practice more than 1 hour a week because of my other responsibilities, and she got better but not great. We woke up at 5 in the morning and waited at the DMV time after time, but she always failed her driving tests. “Needs more practice”, they would say. I admit I was frustrated- it seemed like all this work was getting us nowhere. Was I a bad teacher? Was I really meant to do this? Sometimes she was really withdrawn or even irritable, and I didn’t feel like we were connecting on a personal level. But I kept coming back to the feeling that I was supposed to do this, and the task wasn’t done. So we continued to hit the road, and in time the door of her heart swung open. We began to talk about life, hurts, fears, addictions, the temptation to quit and the call of God to keep going. I watched her almost run back to her abusive family, watched her life and future hang by a thread. But she was sustained. I was only one person that God brought into her life, and probably the least important. She has a church family and a few true friends who fill in for the family she lost. Somewhere around the fifth driving test I realized that I was in her life for a lot bigger reason than a driver’s license. She needed one more person who wouldn’t give up on her, who wouldn’t disappear as so many had. In return I gained a friend from hard places. I learned a lot about sexual and emotional trauma and what it does to a person. It turns their whole world into an ugly and dangerous place. It makes them want to escape, or to grasp for control if only within their own body. But I also saw the place of courage, the way that God will come alongside and help someone if they throw themselves on him and refuse to give up. Elaina made a lot of bad decisions as she tried to cope with her trauma, but somewhere in there she found a true faith that God is for her. She’s listening more, relying less on other ways of coping. It appears that God is beginning to remove the roadblocks that caused so much frustration, but she admits now were there for a reason. She just found a job in her field after looking for half a year, and I’m hopeful that our 6th attempt with the DMV will bring success.

8.I read some really good books, partly thanks to my book club. My top 3 were:”The Girl in the Picture” by Denise Chong, “The Insanity of God” by Nik Ripken, and “The Heavenly Man” by Yun/Hattaway. This post is already too long, so I won’t elaborate.

9.I experienced the love of God in a new way, especially around the time of my 38th birthday (see “The Bitter Seed”)

10. We helped our friends begin their adoption of a Chinese boy with a heart condition, and had several heart to heart adoption conversations with other couples who are now in process.

11. We got a reassuring medical report on Nick. Shortly after adopting him, we learned that he was exposed in utero to a chronic life shortening infection. While his early tests were somewhat hopeful, we had to wait 18 months to learn that he was not infected. We knew that he was the baby God had for us, and that He would have carried us down that road if we had to walk it. Still, my stomach turned in knots when I got that phone call, and what relief and joy we had over the gracious news that he had been spared.

12. My job, working for a residency, at a university clinic, nursing home, urgent care and mentoring residents. Medicine is never boring, ever expanding in knowledge, and it can always be done better. I appreciate the times I was able to help physically or emotionally, and I especially enjoyed the residents, and the things we shared about life and medicine.

13. Being a mom of a 2 and 4 year old- such an exhausting and heartwarming stage. This year The Jade went from toddler to little boy. His cute mispronunciations have morphed into intelligent paragraphs. Sometimes he sounds like he’s 4 going on 14. Nick has found his vocabulary as well, and we’re beginning to see the foreshadowing of an affectionate, stubborn and sensitive nature. He also amazes us daily with his raw strength and destructive power. There is nothing more fulfilling and challenging than caring for and shaping an eternal soul in his most vulnerable and formative state.

14. I’m thankful for all the things that didn’t happen. Seriously, I have one friend whose husband faced cancer this year, and a cousin who did the same. Friends had children diagnosed with terminal illnesses or experiment with drugs. Other husbands cheated or became alcoholics. Crippling depression and anxiety took others. People everywhere are hurting and dealing with big stuff. And of course, so have we. Maybe we didn’t add a new family member, take an international trip, or move forward with our China plans. But we also didn’t lose loved ones, suffer a major illness or other big crisis. Thank God for a blessed but pretty boring year.

Working girl

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It’s interesting that this innocent phrase colloquially means prostitute, but I’m not writing about that. A woman who works is a woman who uses her skills outside the home to serve others and make an income. Unlike a housewife whose valuable service is sometimes unappreciated, this woman at least gets tangible compensation.

I spent the weekend at a medical conference, surrounded by crusty old doctors in an atmosphere of posh hotel comfort. I have never doubted my career choice (well, maybe a few post-call mornings in residency),and feel a sense of belonging in this venerable vocation of intelligent caring. I heard somewhere that 2/3 of physicians are introverts, and I wasn’t surprised. We like being the experts with the answers, to be sought out by the consumer rather than having to recruit as in other professions. Many of us are independent, value time alone, and find gory procedures fascinating. We add knowledge pragmatically, not being overfond of esoteric details we left behind in med school. To us the reflex question is usually “How will this help me take better care of my patients’? Many of us are cynical, worn by years of inappropriate, manipulative patients, non-compliance, and tragic stories we never got over. But at our core most of us still like and care about people. We want to help them and get great fulfillment from doing so. That idealistic med student still lives inside. Physicians are sometimes socially awkward, the grown up high school nerd that everyone thought was smart but no one invited out. We have money for fashion but couldn’t care less for it. We’re most comfortable in scrubs, talking pathology with our fellow comrades. Some docs get so much identity from their work they don’t change their schedule after residency. Many female physicians I know work full time and their husbands care for their children.
After residency I decided that I didn’t want that life. I respect my female colleagues who work full time and are still devoted to their kids and home life. I didn’t even have kids at the time, but desperately wanted them, and wanted to give 100% when they came. No one has endless energy, patience and time, and when you try to do 2 full time jobs something’s gonna go. I also wanted to have “a life”, which to me entailed meeting with friends, hobbies, exercise and volunteering. I am thankful that working part time was an option, as I know it isn’t for many people.
Now we are working on our third adoption, and I have downsized my work hours to just 1 day a week so I can have personal time when the boys are in preschool and be ready to care for an infant. Working 1 day a week is almost like not working. I feel myself losing ground professionally. My inboxes are full from not being checked. My medical brain is fuzzy bringing up details I haven’t dwelt on in a quarter month. Very little new knowledge is being acquired- I am probably forgetting more than I’m learning. Yet my job satisfaction is really high. I still have enough medical memory to be competent. I enjoy a day away from the kids, interacting with adults as a professional, giving advice and (hopefully) helping people. My compassion meter is high since it’s not overdrained. When an elderly patient tells me “You’re in the right profession” there is a surge of identity and purpose. My brain thrills to the puzzle of medical diagnoses after days of heartwarming but tedious children’s books and games. I like contributing to the family income and having my own tithe to give away.
I have other friends who stop being physicians after their children come. Their decision doesn’t feel permanent to them but I wonder if it will be. Medicine is a jealous and unforgiving lover. It desires to consume all your time, and if you leave you may not be able to come back. Maintenance of knowledge is time consuming, and if that isn’t done the return to work learning curve will be very steep.I don’t think I could make their choice. To me, being a woman in medicine is like being a third culture kid. You have to try to live between the 2 worlds you love. If I stop practicing medicine I will be haunted by my lost identity. If I don’t have quantity time with my kids I will regret the years I lost.
I really love being a doctor, and don’t desire to resign this part of myself, even as my life fills with other things I value more. I will try to walk this tightrope life I have chosen- to be a committed spouse, devoted mom and competent and caring physician.